% IssueDate = "5/29/03" IssueCategory = "Events" %>
Introduced in U.S. Congress
Representatives Attempt to Deny Same-Sex Couples' Equality
Amendment Flies in the Face of American Public Opinion Polls
Human Rights Campaign
A recently released Gallup Poll showed that six in 10 Americans support giving same-sex couples the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples regarding health care benefits and Social Security survivor benefits. The poll also showed that the country is evenly split, 49 percent in favor and 49 percent against, on allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally form civil unions, giving them some of the legal rights of marriage.
A recent study of the 2000 Census by the Urban Institute showed that the average same-sex couple is, statistically speaking, a mirror image of the average married couple. For example, the average same-sex couple with children in Ohio is raising 1.79 children, while the average heterosexual couple is raising 1.93 children. Also in Ohio, 75.1 percent of same-sex couples own their homes, and 82.2 percent of other couples own their homes, which have the same median value of $112,500.
"Clearly, the similarities between same-sex couples and married couples far outweigh the differences," said Birch. "This amendment is divisive and discriminatory, and seeks to treat one group of citizens differently than everyone else. That's just wrong."
The amendment states: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this [C]onstitution nor the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried coupled or groups."
Passing a constitutional amendment is, by design, a complicated and complex process. First the amendment has to be introduced as a joint resolution in the House and Senate. The amendment must pass both houses by a two-thirds majority vote. The amendment must then be ratified by three-quarters of states. Last year, during the 107th Congress, a similar resolution was introduced in the House, but never in the Senate. That resolution did not receive any legislative action, and subsequently died.
The Federal Marriage Amendment, introduced May 21, is sponsored by Republican Reps. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Jo Ann Davis of Virginia and David Vitter of Louisiana, and Democratic Reps. Ralph M. Hall of Texas, Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina. Several of these members co-sponsored the bill last year. There is no Senate companion measure.
"This amendment, and the small handful of people supporting it, not only face strong opposition in the hearts and minds of most Americans, but also have to overcome significant built-in constitutional hurdles. Ultimately, this amendment will most likely equate to little more than a mean-spirited sideshow," said Birch.